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Acquaintances become friends after kidney transplant connection

Debbie Lundberg and Debra Palmer met years ago at a business conference. Lundberg will donate her kidney to Palmer on Aug. 6 after barely knowing each other.

TAMPA, Fla. — There is surely a point when acquaintances cross over into friends. 

Debbie Lundberg and Debra Palmer crossed that line the day after they ate lunch together in 2019.

Lundberg, who moved to Florida in 2002, first read about Palmer’s need for a kidney transplant in a Facebook post in 2019. Palmer has been dealing with persistent kidney problems for more two decades. 

The time for organ donation had come.  

“I didn’t hesitate. It’s really interesting how we’ve grown very close,” Lundberg said.

The “two Debs," as they call each other, met at a business conference five years ago. For years, they were little more than acquaintances. 

Debbie’s blood test the day after their lunch date revealed the two women shared more than a name. They were both A-positive blood types – a key component to finding an organ donor match.

Lundberg knew instantly she would give Palmer her kidney.

“I have no words to express my gratitude,” said Palmer, who lives in Seffner.

“I had a feeling from the time I tested my blood that I would be the match,” Lundberg said. “I don’t know how. I don’t know the reason. I just really felt it in my heart and soul.”

The transplant surgery journey has included many preliminary tests. The COVID-19 pandemic complicated matters. The surgery was delayed due to the pandemic as the transplant was deemed “non-essential”.

But, after weeks of waiting, Lundberg will save Palmer’s life with a kidney donation on Aug. 6 at Tampa General Hospital.

“We had lunch and now she wants to give me her kidneys,” Palmer said. “I’m just so thankful.”

The two Debs kept in touch through social media and texting. They have only seen each other once in person since March for a few minutes in a driveway. Both were wearing masks, which hid their smiles. 

This weekend, they’ll cement their transformation from acquaintances to friends with the life-saving procedure.

“However this turns out, we’re connected for life,” Palmer said.

A normal kidney transplant journey can take years. From the time of Palmer’s first Facebook post unveiling her need for a new organ until this Thursday’s surgery will span just over a year and a half.

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